A road trip to South Dakota did not seem ideal. My dad, a salesman, had multiple appointments in the state the summer before my sophomore year. I decided to join him in the chance that I would experience some “adventure.” I never traveled to the Dakotas before so I didn’t have any idea what I would be experiencing. I discovered by hour three into the car ride that the vision I had in my head seemed to be fairly accurate. There was not too much to see. I stared out the window in the passenger seat and realized that the view didn’t change over the course of the drive. The image of brown mountains and wind turbines stretched for miles.
When we finally made it to the Rapid City Holiday Inn Express, I was ready to witness more than rocks and the stench of the cow farms. It may seem like a pessimistic outlook, but that was my viewpoint at the time. My dad and I got our appointments out of the way so we could spend time exploring the state.
Destination number one: Mount Rushmore. Our drive to the monument took us down weaving roadways. We moved between the vast trees, having never quite witnessed that beauty of the sunlight between the trees. Those little specks of light peaked out in the cracks of the woods as we made our way. Those little specks gave way to the outline taking shape ahead of us. My dad parked our car and we went toward the monument entrance. I noticed the detailing the in rock, the interaction other tourists had with the attraction, and the fireworks that displayed behind the commanding figures. My reaction was in compliance with the other viewers. The beauty of the rock went beyond the granite appearance. It was more than staring up into the stone eyes of the former leaders. The monument symbolized, at least to me, the beauty that this nation was built upon. I recall whispering over to my dad, “Hey, this isn’t so bad.”
My dad and I made a pact that we wouldn’t return home until we saw buffalo. Custer State Park seemed like it would be home to the perfect such occasion. We slowly drove through the park, windows rolled down. The beautiful trees and wooded areas instantly caught our attention. The deep greens and browns seem to mark the state. We watched the antelope and the prairie dogs, poking each other in the arms as we passed each new species. Just when I was becoming discouraged, we saw a herd of deep brown. Buffalo. Huge buffalo. These amazing animals were inches from our car. We intently watched as they interacted with one another, rapidly swatting flies with their tails. My dad leaned over and guided, “Soak all this up. This is something you’ll want to remember."
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.